Stepping out on opening night

Every moment of one’s existence one is growing into more or retreating into less.         Norman Mailer

In this world you’re either growing or you’re dying so get into motion and grow. Lou Holtz

Julia Cameron talks of artists dates. This was a practice of mine some time ago and I fell off the wagon. Due to a recent change in circumstances I have felt isolated, alone and needing connection. I’ve identified activities and events to attend, I’ve flooded my calendar with them in fact but when the time arises I find it hard to get dressed and step out the door. It’s so much easier to stay at home and hide from the world.

Scrolling through social media I noticed a friend was interested in an event. Looking into it I discovered it was an opening of an indigenous art exhibition at a gallery I follow. I popped it in my calendar thinking it could be a nice opportunity to get out and be around people.

An hour before the event I was already seeing myself curled up on the couch with a book and cup of tea. I was making plenty of excuses not to go. Noticing this self-defeating pattern of behaviour I messaged my friend and asked if she was going. She was unwell. She did however encourage me by reminding me of the artist date concept. After a little delay I threw caution to the wind  (oh yes, risk taking needs to become a bigger part of my life from now on. Minimal as those risks might be in the short-term) and got dressed (yep, big decisions here too. Could easily have derailed the whole thing right in the wardrobe. To cut the crap and the debate in my head I selected a simple dress and sandals. No fuss – simple and easy) and headed out.

A lightness instantly descended upon me, or is that the heaviness lifted? Either works and perhaps are synchronistically synonymous in this instance.  Parking a short distance away and walking toward the gallery, passing Friday night revellers I felt a freedom and a confidence in having made the decision to step out of the house, out of my funk and into life. Choosing action over inaction and movement instead of ‘stuckness’ felt great.

The exhibition was intimate. The works pure and innocent with captivating colours and symbolism. Compared to other crowded opening nights it was an event attended by a small number of art enthusiasts passionate about indigenous art. I wasn’t exactly surrounded by people and I didn’t connect in any overt way with anyone but it was nice to share the space and see the appreciation for the works in the demeanour of others. It was a shared experience.

My excursion wasn’t a long one but gosh it was liberating. Some readers may think that odd because going out on a Friday night is such a normal thing to do and going to a gallery opening isn’t exactly skydiving. When the fabric of your life has been slashed and your self-esteem and sense of self-worth have been demolished by the cruel acts of another and tragic circumstances it’s hard to stand up straight let alone step out into the light.

I know this is just a small step to recovering and rediscovering life. I am looking forward to many more opening nights and opening myself to new and exciting opportunities.

 

A year of inspiration: inspired by my friend Catherine and the need to step out and into the light and explore life from a new perspective.

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Suddenly

“Sometimes life takes you into a dark place where you feel it’s impossible to breathe. You think you’ve been buried, but don’t give up, because if truth be told, you’ve actually been planted.”
― Karen Gibbs

I suddenly found myself unable to breathe.  My heart ached from the pain of the news just delivered. I’ve been crippled by it, weighed down and tormented by it for a month now. It’s like no pain I’ve ever felt. It feels like my heart is expanding beyond its borders, about to explode and yet, it feels gripped, pinched and constricted, tight and throbbing. I look down and can see it frantic through the fabric of my dress.

My heart may well be broken. It aches so.

And yet, in the midst of the pain,  I realise there may exist that silver lining they speak of. I glimpse the opportunity to restart and rejuvenate, to renew. I try to focus on the opportunities that lay ahead and of the freedom to grow and expand and to revel in life again.

Suddenly, I realise I’ve been planted and breathe a little easier.

Change can be uncomfortable

“Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.” ~ Richard Branson

Several years ago I moved house after being in the same house for 17 years.
I chose to move but it was a hard move to make. The house I was leaving was the first house I had owned. My son grew up there. My beloved and I celebrated our marriage there and over time we renovated it and made it comfortable.

I cried for weeks as I was packing up, moving into the new place and cleaning the old ready for new owners.

At first it was difficult to adjust to my new surroundings. I had to stop and think how to get to the places I frequented after using the same routes for 17 years. I had to find a new supermarket. I kept reaching for the third draw in the kitchen, which was no longer there. In short, there was an adjustment period.

The change was uncomfortable because I didn’t think I could be as happy or as comfortable in a new house as I had been in the old. I had to change some habits and routines to suit my new environment. I underestimated how good the move could be. The new house was lighter and brighter, it had a yard and I could start a vegetable garden for the first time. While I had to shop at a different supermarket, I was familiar with the one in the suburb, not too far away, and it was a very good supermarket. So that was a big bonus.

The travel stumped me for a while and each time I jumped in the car I had to really think about how I would get to where I was going. I soon realised I had better access to many destinations from my new home.  So I stopped using the old ways to get around. But even through this I realised much stayed the same. I was still travelling in my own car, I was still using the road system, a GPS could help me navigate if I really needed it. I just had to build some new habits and tweak others.

The curious and intriguing thing about change is that it isn’t change itself that is so hard, it’s the thought that we have are expected to change that causes discomfort. When I reflect on all the difficult changes I have encountered in life I’ve made it through. It comes almost as a revelation with hindsight that it wasn’t really as hard as initially thought. I guess it is part of the human spirit to endure.

Change can feel uncomfortable for a while but it’s good to remember that often times much of what you do now will remain the same. Look for the familiar structures, the commonalities, the shared routines. You might use slightly different paths to get back to a sense of comfort though you may well draw on many familiar strategies too.

Like my move, I overestimated how good what I had was and underestimated how good living somewhere else could be. Similarly too, when going through changed work conditions, physical, emotional or social change it’s to be expected there will be a pinch. We become comfortable in our routines and the familiarity of our surroundings, so it’s to be expected that there will be some discomfort for a while.

It helps to reflect on our own habits, practices and routines to consider what we will stop doing, start doing and keep doing to negotiate ourselves through the discomfort of change, to emerge confident and operational on the other side.

A year of inspiration: Inspired by Queensland teachers preparing for a new curriculum and assessment system in the senior phase of learning.

Postscript

I wrote this post before receiving some wrenching news that will change my life in  inconceivable ways and I feel much of what I wrote above is trite in the face of the changes I am about to undertake. I am currently in a mire of pain, despair, confusion, anger, sadness, loss and desperation. At times, when the tears stop and the ache in my heart lifts, ever so slightly, I can see the promise of new opportunities but first I must walk through the hellish pit of despair dragging the weight of sorrow and suffering to reach acceptance to emerge. My intention with this post was not to trivialize anyones great pain due to major life changes. I hope this experience of mine helps to make me more aware and compassionate in the future. I have too many words and not enough to share with you where I am at right now. I hope to gather myself enough to find something worth expressing soon.

“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realise space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

 

Heartache to happiness

“It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.”
 John Joseph Powell

As as pondered what I had learnt this week and what I could share that was interesting and meaningful, I scrolled back through my posts. I’m not sure what compelled me to do so but I stumbled upon this unpublished draft and wondered why I had shelved it. Even as I wondered I realised, despite my willingness to share and be vulnerable, that perhaps this was too raw, too private, something to be kept under wraps. As I write this introduction I have second thoughts about sharing. I have a gnawing unease. Will people think I’m mad? Probably. Will people think less of me? Does it matter? Will people judge me and ridicule? Perhaps.

Then another set of questions were raised. What’s the point of sharing? What’s the value in it? Is it self-indulgent? Is it interesting and meaningful to others? Oh, heck. I don’t know. Maybe it is self-indulgent but perhaps it could be cathartic and healing. This story might set some eyes a rolling but then it might also hit a nerve for one or two. Interesting? Most assuredly not. But confirming and validating for some, perhaps.

Well, I figure, you  can’t change if you don’t feel uncomfortable. Right?  I’m feeling VERY uncomfortable. But it’s interesting too, to see that so much has changed in 12 months. This post was written a year ago (I had almost forgotten how desperately dark and ill at ease I was) and maybe that’s why it’s begging to be released now. When all is said and done I believe there is a place for celebrating change and growth and new found peacefulness. There is room for celebrating life and choosing a different focus. Life can change. We can change it with small actions and with a choice to be, think and act differently.

Okay, here goes. I have resisted making any changes to the original post, it is as I wrote it all that time ago.


Moved to tears over years of anguish. And for what?

I recently read a brilliant post by Elizabeth Gilbert in which she shared a personal experience of releasing pain after fifteen years. She eventually. After trying everything sat quietly and asked her body what it wanted her to do to heal a knee injury. She got a clear message and was from then on able to move freely after following the advice she received.

I’ve tried this strategy myself many times with mixed degrees of effectiveness. Too often my rational brain pops in to make its voice heard, as does my ego.  Anyway, I felt, after reading this I’d give it another go.

I sat quietly, hugged my knees to my chest and asked my body what it wanted me to do to help it heal. The answer brought tears to my eyes. Very clearly I heard the words “Love Me”.

I cried for several reasons. Imagine being unloved for 40 odd years. I cried too because after 40 or so years of not loving my body, I didn’t know what that meant. How was I to do this?

Suddenly all the hateful self talk, all the anguished bathroom mirror rantings and frustrations flooded back to me, all the times I’d compared myself to others and felt lacking, all the times I’d ‘hidden’, dressed in nondescript clothing, refusing to wear make up, not wanting to stand out, came flooding back to me and I was ashamed. I was also suddenly aware why things weren’t working, why there were imbalances, why there was extreme fatigue and lethargy. Wouldn’t anyone feel this after being treated so poorly?

I saw the pattern of my behaviour over many years mapped out in an instant behind my closed eyelids. I recalled too an agonising self depreciating tirade my sister had delivered just the week before. She was on a diet. Another one. To lose weight for a wedding in which she is to be Matron of Honour. My sister is the mother of four beautiful children. She is stunning. If you were to see her you wouldn’t think she needed to lose weight at all. She looks fabulous, stylish and she is an outrageously entertaining woman. I asked her why she thought she had to lose weight. Her response was that all the other bridesmaids were younger and skinny.

She felt she had to be skinny to be accepted, to be worthy. All this was said in front of her teenage daughter.  I couldn’t help but wonder how very damaging family patterns can be. I’ve read a lot recently about the importance of mothers teaching their daughters to love their bodies. How can broken women do that? How can years of patterning be reversed? Do we even realise these patterns exist? Does our walk match our talk?

I remember saying to my niece that our family had always equated being thin with being valued. That she should be aware that she was so much more than her body and that her personality, her intellect, her talents and skills were the bigger parts of her that contributed to the world, that her body needed to be healthy to help her reach her goals. There I was, telling her the very thing I couldn’t and had never been able to do for myself – value me for me and be grateful to my body for enabling me to move through life. There I was encouraging her to ignore what she heard us say and saw us do. I was asking her to understand what she’d just heard her mother say about her own body was unhealthy, irrational and unfounded. I was so impassioned that my beautiful, strong, energetic, sporty niece should not go down the same path we did, without realising I should have been preaching to myself.

I recall too, many years ago sharing my self loathing with a massage therapist and she didn’t understand. She had never experienced it. Her story was equally foreign to me. She told me she often looks in the mirror appreciatively and thinks “Hmm, looking good!”.

What to do? I’m thinking start small. I’ve been writing a gratitude note each day this year. I’m just going to shift my attention to focus on my physical body and thank it for something each day. Surely gratitude is one step along the path toward self -love.

I can barely see through the tears in my eyes. I guess I’ve just found a kernel of truth right there.

Sending you all love and wishing for you great wads of self-love and appreciation.

Do you still have your kaleidoscope?

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“The world is your kaleidoscope, and the varying combinations of colors which at every succeeding moment it presents to you are the exquisitely adjusted pictures of your ever-moving thoughts.”                                            James Edward Allen, American Artist

I’ve been experimenting. Not again you might say. But yes, why stop? Life is full of opportunities to explore and investigate. Anyway, my experiment has to do with perspectives and ways of thinking.

I’ve noticed I’m a black hat thinker. Have you heard of the six thinking hats developed by Edward de Bono? De Bono identified six ways of thinking and to help maximise the potential of these styles in classrooms, the boardroom and beyond he labeled them with a coloured hat. A hat you could literally or figuratively wear as called for in different situations.

The image below provides a quick summary (sourced image ).

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So, as I was saying. When in new situations or faced with new challenges and potential obstacles I more often than not go straight to black hat. I identify all the possible problems, threats, dangers and risks. I used to lament this quirk in my nature. However, I’ve noticed, that as I’ve accepted my mental model more that it isn’t all negative. I do this instinctively so that I can manage potential issues to ensure success is more likely.

I recently complimented a work colleague on his yellow hat thinking. He says yes, immediately. He sees potential and is ready to make magic happen. No task is too big or too small for him. We are total opposites in our initial reactions. From his wonderfully yellow position he shared with me that the strength of a team relies on all types of thinkers. That we compliment each other with our differences.

What a beautiful perspective.

I thought then that life is like a potpourri, its richness and wonder comes from ingredients of different colours, shapes and textures. Then I remembered the wonder of a childhood toy, the kaleidoscope. Life is like that too. It’s true beauty is revealed when we are aware of other perspectives, when we are open to accepting them and challenging ourselves to try on different ‘hats’ so we too can view the world differently.

In my work as a facilitator of teaching and learning I’ve challenged my adult learners to use different hats in given scenarios. They’ve been intrigued and delighted. Personally, I’ve been using my green hat to explore creative alternatives, at home and at work, and it’s so much fun.

Can you identify the hat you wear most? Does it need a little holiday? Are you willing to try on another hat, or two or three this coming week? I encourage you to change things up for, in the words of Sharon Salzberg, “life is like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope – a slight change, and all patterns alter.”

Have fun,

Shannyn

Pilates. A pushover? Think again!

If it doesn’t challenge you. It doesn’t change you.

Fred DeVito

Image courtesy of A Balanced Life.

Image courtesy of A Balanced Life.

I attended my first ever Pilates class this week thinking it would be a walk in the park compared to an Ashtanga yoga class. Wasn’t I in for a shock!

I have a regular yoga practice and while I attend a weekly two hour class my home practice isn’t as conscientiously consistent as I’d like it to be. I rarely practice for two hours at home, instead carving out between thirty minutes and an hour most days. So I’m not exactly a yoga master but all things considered I thought a Pilates class would not be as demanding as my yoga practice. Well, I was wrong about that!

Talk about being floored. Almost immediately my bravado and smugness were shattered. I was surprised by how intense some moves were and how strong one’s core had to be to hold others. I was confused by the breathing, which appeared to be opposite to what I’m used to in yoga, and I wasn’t prepared for the weird sensation and lack of coordination when, lying face down, I was asked to move my leg in a circle. My brain and limb seemed disconnected.

Not wanting to admit defeat I soldiered on and my ‘grin and bear it don’t let anyone know how hard you are finding this’ attitude dissolved into a pleasant challenge. Once I settled into being out of my comfort zone I began to really enjoy the demands of the class as well as the mental and physical hurdles being presented. Before I knew it the class was over, I was walking out the door, thanking the instructor and telling her I’d see her next week.

Yes, I’m going back for more.

My greatest hope is that Fred DeVito is right, I expect to see some fantastic changes in my resilience, my resolve and my abs as a result of this new Pilates challenge I’ve undertaken.

What small challenge are you willing to undertake to see changes in your life?

Shannyn

Ditch the resolutions and get back to yourself instead.

Who are you? Do you even know anymore?

Sure, you’re a mother or father, a sister or brother. You are either an employee or an employer. Then you might add husband or wife, friend, aunt or uncle.  But who are you, without all the attachments and the relationships?

Can you remember when you were young and those things that made you happy, the things you loved to spend time doing? These activities can help us get back to ourselves. They can be our guides back to joy, peace and harmony.

Think back, what was it you loved doing? How did you spend most of your time? What made you happy?

For me it was dressing up and putting on performances for my grandmother.  I loved selecting pretty things to wear, that felt nice next to my skin, that made me feel good about myself. I loved entertaining, dancing and movement.

I loved the ritual of morning and afternoon tea with my Grandparents. It was always a simple affair but tea time was special. I got to choose my own cup and select a cookie from the barrel. They were usually only Arnott’s assorted biscuits but the cream ones were purely decadent in my young opinion.

From my maternal grandfather I learnt the joy of completing crossword puzzles. He drank tea too. Made in a pot with a cosy. I loved to watch comedy television shows with him like I Dream of Jeannie, I Love Lucy and Laverne and Shirley. We would laugh and laugh.

I remember too, the thrill of rolling down a grassy hill. The pure excitement and the great shrieks of laughter that rang out prompting me to run up and do it again.

So, next year, I intend to spend time doing these things again. I am going to find a friend who can teach me the joys of shopping for nice clothes (rather than racing in and buying the first thing I see on the rack), I’m going to move more by getting back into yoga. I might even dare to dance around the house when no one is looking.

I still love tea and I’m going to extend this ritual by inviting friends to enjoy afternoon tea with me. These little events will include nice cups and saucers, teapots and a selection of yummy homemade delicacies.

I’m going to keep a crossword book handy all year round and not save the fun for holidays only. I’m even going to allow myself to sit and watch something totally silly, trivial and funny on TV or DVD once in a while, to bring back the laughter.

I wonder if I’ll be brave enough to go out on my own, without a young child in tow as an excuse, and roll down a hill. I hope so.

If I can tap back into these activities that I enjoyed as young girl, by including them in my adult life, I know I will have a deeper sense of satisfaction. I know life will be more joyful. I know I will continue to peel back the layers to reveal my essence.

What about you? Will you pull out your Lego and build something? Will you dig out your old Barbie and dress her up? Will you find a slippery slide and ride down it for the pure fun of it? Maybe you’ll venture outside and splash in a puddle (if it ever rains again in Australia) or ride a bike around the neighbourhood.

What will bring you joy in 2014? What will help you tap back into your essence? I’d love to hear what you’ll do.

Wishing you a new year of fun, laughter and a deeper sense of self,

Shannyn